Also this week: remembering Richard Levins, claims that
universities democracies scientific journals are really old and so obviously have outlived their usefulness, powerpoint vs. lecturing, parent accommodations at the ESA meeting, new fellowship in marine conservation, against mom apple pie ggplot2, modeling > coding, award winning Canadian ecologists, and more. Oh, and fox vs. sheets.
The NSF DEBrief blog has good advice on how to review grants.
I’m very late to this, but back in December Simon Leather boycotted the 2015 BES meeting over its decision to eliminate farmed ruminant meat from the conference. Simon said recently that he was disappointed not to have gotten more comments on his post, or any response from the BES. Perhaps this link will help.
I’m also very late to this, to my embarrassment: on Jan. 19, the great Richard Levins passed away. Levins was an intellectual giant. Along with Robert MacArthur, E. O. Wilson, Lawrence Slobodkin, and others, he developed many of the biggest ideas in modern ecology. He also helped develop a distinctive way of doing ecology, using simple mathematical models and fitness optimization as starting points. All ecologists know Levins’ original metapopulation model, which now bears his name. I’m partial to his classic 1966 American Scientist article on “the strategy of model building in population biology”, his great little book Evolution in a Changing Environment, and his neglected classic 1979 paper on coexistence in variable environments. His famous work with MacArthur on limiting similarity has, um, limits. It has also been much misunderstood and incorrectly applied, but I don’t think that’s Levins’ fault. He also hit on the core ideas of the theory of island biogeography, a fact I wasn’t aware of until this week. He published in an obscure venue, though, and so the idea is now associated with MacArthur and Wilson, who published shortly thereafter in a more prominent venue. MacArthur and Wilson also developed the idea more fully; perhaps Levins is to MacArthur and Wilson as Wallace is to Darwin here? Obituary from Greg Mayer here.
I’m slightly less late to this: writing at the Chronicle, Jeremy Yoder on how most academic career advice will be useless to you–which is why you should seek it out.
Sticking with the theme of Do What Works For You: Jeff Leek explains why he doesn’t use ggplot2.
I’m only a week late to this: Manu Saunders uses Darwin and Lincoln’s shared birthday as a jumping-off point to talk about their thoughts on agroecology.
Some links related to Axios Review, the independent ecology & evolution editorial board that allows you to get your mss independently reviewed before submitting them to a journal (full disclosure: I’m on the editorial board). Here’s INNGE’s interview with Axios Review founder Tim Vines. Here’s Simone Vincenzi’s blog post about a paper he recently submitted to Axios. And here’s a post from BMC about their relationship with Axios, including comments from BMC authors who’ve used Axios.
P-hacking, optional stopping, confounding of exploratory and hypothesis-testing analyses, and other dubious analytical practices apparently are rife in infant psychology research. Fortunately, I think some of these practices are rare in ecology, though others might be common. Hmm…might be interesting to do a little poll on this.
Alex Bond reviews this year’s winners of Canada’s top science prizes. The winners include astrophysicist Victoria Kaspi, the first woman to win the top award, and ecologist Elena Bennett. But overall only 17% of the winners were women, which is roughly in line with the past few years. UPDATE: Man, I sucked at linking this week. I failed to notice that our own guest poster Mark Vellend also got a Steacie! Between him and Elena Bennett, ecologists got 2 of the 6 Steacie fellowships on offer. Thanks to Brian for pointing this out in the comments.
Coding is not the new literacy. Modeling is. Discuss. (ht Simply Statistics)
Stuff I’m Not Linking To: saying that scientific journals obviously need to be gotten rid of because they’re 350 years old! I’ve seen this line trotted out more than once by people who want to revolutionize scientific publishing. Which is just silly. I mean, here’s a list of other things that humans invented long ago to serve certain purposes, that retain many of their original features yet remain fit for purpose even though the world has changed radically since they were invented: universities, democratic government, money, books, jury trials, calculus, trains, roads, controlled randomized experiments…I hope you don’t also need me to list younger things that turned out to suck even though they were invented to replace old things (cassette tapes, Pets.com…) Look, go ahead and argue for whatever publishing revolution you want. But make the argument (which many people are doing, of course). Pointing out how old thing X is is irrelevant to whether thing X is or isn’t broken. Or if it is relevant, it’s evidence that thing X isn’t broken; persistence often is a sign of resilience.
And finally: fox mistakes bedsheet for snow, behaves accordingly. (ht Ed Yong, via Twitter) 🙂
There’s a new fellowship that’s just been announced aimed at increasing diversity in the field of marine conservation. From the website:
RAY Fellows will be placed within one of our partner organizations for a year-long paid fellowship position, with the resources and support to develop experiences that will launch them onto a path of career growth in the conservation field. Fellows will work with mentors, grow their networks, and forge lasting relationships with their cohort of fellows. RAY Fellowship positions are full time paid positions at $31,200 plus benefits. Fellows will also receive a stipend of $1,000 to go towards professional development opportunities, in addition to coordinated professional development through their host organizations and the Environmental Leadership Program.
The 2016 RAY Fellowship Program will offer seven Fellowships in its inaugural year beginning June 15, 2016 and ending June 15, 2017.
(ht: Miriam Goldstein)
These life-sized whale sculptures made of willow are amazing!
I enjoyed this blog post by Michigan State’s Chris Waters, describing his experience with eliminating powerpoint slides from his 150-student Microbial Genetics course. As Don Strong noted on twitter, it’s not really that he switched away from technology (or that powerpoint was the main issue before). I agree. The key, in my opinion, is whether the lecture is given presenting material prepared ahead of time or written out on the fly (e.g., my genetics professor had overheads written out in paragraph form that had tons of content). But, for most of us (myself included), using Powerpoint leads to a tendency to include more and to move more quickly. All of this makes me wonder if anyone has done an analysis on the amount of material covered in a given course and how that has changed over time and with changing technology. That would be interesting to see! It also makes me wonder how this would work in a course with multiple instructors teaching different sections,where the goal is to have consistency across instructors. Clearly this is something people dealt with before powerpoint, and presumably it relies on working from the same notes. I’d be interested in hearing more from people who’ve shifted away from powerpoint; based on the amount of discussion this generated on twitter, I’m sure I’m not alone!
How partially funded sabbaticals contribute to inequities in academia: if your institution provides funding for one semester of salary during a sabbatical year, but expects two semesters’ worth of research output, that is a big problem for people who don’t have the resources to magically cover that lost income. This is especially true if that sabbatical occurs before coming up for tenure (as is the case in the linked Tenure, She Wrote post.)
What people think about during your conference talk:
This website is “an online toolkit for university students, faculty, and administrators on pregnancy and parenting”. (It’s not included in their tagline, but there is also information for postdocs on the site.) It covers Title IX protections, gives information on rights and best practices, and has relevant articles.